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Giveaway: A Copy of Romancing Rebecca by Amber Polo

I’m going through my review books, and I’ve found a couple for giveaways. I’ll start with Amber Polo’s Romancing Rebecca:

1 Woman + 2 Men in 1 Body = 1 Romance

Attorney Rebecca Dumarier uses her no-nonsense style to battle for successful romance writers around the globe. Despite her success in the romance industry, her personal romantic life is a disaster. Sure, she’s a high-powered attorney, but can she handle a little broken heart? Confused by feelings she always keeps hidden, Rebecca jumps a flight to Sedona, Arizona. There she’s caught up in the vortex of a mysterious romance with Max, a man with an intoxicating voice, who sends roses, romance novels, and chocolate, but refuses to reveal his face. To make matters worse, Rebecca thinks she’s falling for shy trance channeler Tom Paxton. His precocious daughter and ex-wife/manager complicate the budding relationship until Tom discovers that someone is using his body for romance and his credit card for internet purchases. Investigating an old diary and using her worldly wiles, Rebecca discovers the identity of the man she truly loves. Now if she can only figure out which man that is.

Entering to win this book couldn’t be easier:

  • Comment on this post.
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You receive one entry for each action, so you can potentially receive eight entries.

The winner will be announced 17 May. Entry deadline is 11:59 p.m. UTC on 16 May, 2010.

No transfers or substitutions. The contest is open internationally.


Guest Post by Author Kiki Howell: Creating the Setting and Characters in A Questionable Hero

Today, we welcome Kiki Howell, whose newest book A Questionable Hero was  released last month. She is giving us some insight into the back story of the novel.

You might remember Kiki as one of our early guest interviews.

Now, we’ll turn the stage over to her.

When I am creating a story, especially one that starts with only a hero and heroine, I start by asking myself a bunch of questions.  When your hero and heroine are polar opposites of each other, the inquiry can be quite interesting.  I knew I wanted to try my hand at an angel and demon story.  The idea of it just sent my imagination reeling with a demon hero as the epitomy of the bad boy.

The first thing that came to me though was this battle scene with multitudes of angels and demons fighting each other, and then a demon saving an angel’s life.   I imagined her shock, her horror, and if he looked just right, her lust.   I liked the question of what someone would do if they were an angel warrior and the demon that was supposed to kill them saved them getting hurt in the process? Would the angel then help the demon? I like to give myself these kinds of questions to ponder.

Next, I needed the setting for that battle, and, well, the streets of New York came to me in a round about way actually because I had decided I wanted to tie in somehow readings I had recently done about the witch hunts in England.   Stay with me here! During those times, women were thoroughly questioned about having sex with demons.  So, I gave this knowledge to my angel warrior heroine by making her a professor.  This would give her some myth and legend to deal with alongside her own knowledge from fighting demons to have to work through making him her questionable hero. An aside, imagine her anxiety when needing to unclothe the demon to clean the wound on the man’s hip, a man she found quite attractive, after studying a history where demons were said to have iron sexual parts with sharp razor-like extensions.  Sorry, back on track now!  So, in finding her a university to teach at, I came up with an urban college campus in New York.  I  liked the idea also of the battle being on asphalt in a dimly lit city in the middle of the night where at any moment the battle could be interrupted by some human.  I wanted her to struggle through dark alleyways to get him home, her being an angel warrior and him a demon not her only concern.

With those things established,  I keep asking myself, “what would make this even more of a problematic situation?”  I didn’t have any idea how the story would go or how I even wanted it to end, but once I started writing it the characters took care of that for me. It was one of those stories that takes on a life of its own, the characters so real and vibrant to me, that it was written in a very short amount of time. I walked around for those days though pondering if a demon could ever enter Heaven, even a demon who was a Halfling, born of a human mother but raised in Hell!  To take such a creature, and to attempt to redeem him through his love of an unobtainable being, one he knows with every fiber of his detestable presence that he should stay away from – what a moral dilemma for a halfling – and how utterly romantic to write.  I have the best job ever!

— Kiki

A Questionable Hero by Kiki Howell

Genre: Paranormal (angel/demon) Erotic Romance (male/female)
Heat Level: Fire
Length: 21,597 / 103 pages
Price: $4.50
Released 19th March 2010 from Shadowfire Press
Purchase Link:
Author Website:


What’s in a Blurb?

It’s funny the things we take for granted about books and bookbuying. If you are anything like me, you are attracted first by the title and cover, and then by the back cover blurb. At that point you’re holding the book in your hands and it’s logical to take a look at the first few sentences on page one. After all, you’ve come this far, right? According to the people who study these things, writers have something like 30 seconds to impress you once you, the potential purchaser, pick up the book. Getting you to open the covers and read the first few lines is crucial! If the book doesn’t grab you then, it’s quite likely to be consigned back to the shelf. But the major part of that battle is to capture your interest enough to get you to actually pick up the book and open the covers. Which means you’ve got to have something pretty special in the back cover blurb.

Tough, but not as hard as it is in movies,where scriptwriters put together a one line pitch or ‘logline’ in order to grab a filmmaker’s attention. In classes, I ask students to write a ‘blurb’ about their story in just a couple of sentences and that usually evokes some pretty loud groans, although once they’ve mastered the art, most writers think it’s a real benefit. Distilling your story down to its very essence in a couple of sentences clarifies it for you; it also tells you pretty quickly whether you’ve got a strong idea or not.

In this exercise you’re actually creating a ‘teaser’ as opposed to the kind of query hook you’d put together as part of a synopisis. However, using these few sentences to describe your story can make an editor-grabbing beginning to a query letter! In this stripped down story line, you need to have the names of the main characters, something about their motives, the challenge facing them, and their reactions. The Who, What, When, and Why. You can keep the How part a secret for now – it’s good to leave the reader hungry to know the ending of your story  and the fate of the protagonists.

Here’s the blurb for Marrying Money, my new release eBook from Red Rose Publishing

Diana, Lady Ashburnham, needs to find a rich husband, and fast.She’s the last of an aristocratic line stretching back 500 years, and she’s broke. The family fortunes have been eaten up by the crumbling mansion and impoverished estate. Not wanting to be known as the ‘Ashburnham Who Lost The Lot’, she refuses to sell off heirloom jewellery or let the estate be auctioned off to a millionaire or heavy metal rock star.That’s when Diana has her Great Idea – she’ll follow a new take on the way her ancestors raised money – by marrying money! So Diana corals her best friend, Sally Barnes, into joining her on a trip to Ireland to try to net a – preferably titled – millionaire.

See – an entire short novel condensed into six lines. Yet those lines tell the reader a lot about the story, the characters, motivation and setting, without giving away the whole plot.

Another way to capture a potential reader’s interest is to have a few lines from a well-known author – or at least someone better known than yourself – praising your story. That’s not so easy to get until you’re fairly well known or you have made a point of making lots of writer friends who now feel indebted to you. Some publishers will ask other authors in their stable to offer a few lines to promote another writer. There are dangers inherent in this, however. Groucho Marx is supposed to have written the following note to an author who had requested some kind words to put on the back cover of his novel: ‘From the moment I picked up your book until the moment I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.’  Uhmm, when you think about it, not really much of a recommendation!

Then there’s the equally obscure comment from a Victorian English Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, himself the author of several books: ‘Dear Sir, thank you for sending me a copy of your book, which I shall waste no time in reading.’  That’s a double meaning I wouldn’t want on my back cover!

The point I’m trying to make is the the back cover blurb is an important selling point for your book and it’s worth putting in some time developing and honing your blur-writing skills. Not only does this distillation of your novel into a few sentences help you to consolidate plot points, it also gives your readers a tasty bite of the feast they’ll find within the covers.

One last thing – have you ever wondered where the word ‘blurb’ came from? You must admit it’s a bit of a weird one and doesn’t seem to have any scholarly Latin or Greek roots. According to a recent article in the Toronto Globe & Mail newspaper about this very topic, we can thank a writer named Gelett Burgess for the phenomena. It seems, according to the Globe, that Burgess wanted to grab attention for his funny book, ‘Are You a Bromide?’ published in 1907. He did so by putting a picture of a pretty young woman on the cover. This fictional young lady’s name was Miss Belinda Blurb, and she assured would-be readers that Burgess’ book was ‘…a terrific read.’

So, readers and fellow authors, what back cover blurbs have grabbed you? Do you like humorous ones, or those that hint of something dark and deadly? How important is the blurb to you when deciding to buy a book? Please share some of your thoughts in the comments column!

Glenys O’Connell is hard at work on a blurb for her next book, Saving Maggie, a romantic suspense/paranormal. Meanwhile, for those who like a lot of humor with their romance, her latest release is marrying Money, a romantic comendy set in the UK and Ireland, which she claims is an absolute steal at $2.99 to download from


Learning about the Business

Over the weekend, I attended a presentation by author Deb Schneider. She talked about how to write a romance and, more important, how to understand the business.

One of the revelations she had for us was that the billionaire and the virgin trope popular in the category romances baffles many U.S. romance fans because it isn’t intended for us. Those books do well enough in the United States, but their target audience is readers in more conservative cultures around the world. They are extremely popular internationally.

She also discussed the future of publishing. She compared a copy of her newest release, Promise Me, printed by the publisher and one printed at a print-on-demand (POD) kiosk. They were virtually indistinguishable. With the high cost of printing, transporting, warehousing, and returning unsold printed books, POD makes a lot of sense.

And, Schneider shared her thoughts on ebooks and ebook readers. Sales of ebooks grew 176% last year, when most other segments of the book industry saw drops in sales. Yes, they are still a small percentage of the total book market (7%), but with growth like that, how much longer until they represent the majority of sales?

I haven’t yet purchased a POD book, but I am definitely on the ebook bandwagon. I use the Kindle, eReader, and Stanza apps on my iPod Touch, so I’m not wedded to a particular format.

Today, I read a piece on JA Konrath’s blog about a successful Kindle-only author, Karen McQuestion. McQuestion and Konrath both release their books in Kindle at low prices to help potential readers feel good about taking a chance on an unknown author. And they have both seen success with that business model. (Konrath is also a traditionally published author.)

How have you adapted to the changing world of publishing, whether in the romance genre or in other genres?


Writing Environments

I envy authors who can write anywhere. I truly do.  Me? I’m kind of picky about where I write, and when I’m in the perfect environment, the words flow. When I’m not, we’re talking about serious writer’s block.

My perfect environment is free of distractions so I can focus on my character’s voices. That means no TV, no dog, no crying baby, etc. Ironically enough, I do ok with “white noise” and music at a low volume. I didn’t realize how much environment impacted my writing until I moved last year. My old house had a downstairs bedroom that I used as my office, and I loved it. It was the perfect place to retreat, plug in my Zune, and type away. Now, I’m crammed into small two bedroom apartment with my husband, my dog, and my baby, so writing at home has become near impossible. Thank goodness for a local cafe. On my days off from work, you can usually find me there with my netbook, trying to reach my word count goal for the day.

What is your ideal writing environment? What do you absolutely need in order to write?


The Secret Formula for Writing Success

I teach a creative writing course called ‘Naked Writing – the No Frills Way to Write Your Novel’.
Okay, have you stopped chortling yet?
The name seemed a good idea at the time, trying to get over the idea that this was simply a course designed to help writers finish their own book – there’d be no analyzing the classics, here, just plain old hard work. I suggested that students put ‘Naked Writing’ in the sub line of their emails to help me quickly pick them out of the inbox.
A simple idea, you might think. But no. I got complaints from some students that their servers spotted the word ‘naked’ and automatically thought ‘spam’ and refused to send the email.
Oh, yes, censorship may well be alive and well and living in cyberland….as a reaction to THOSE kind of spam messages. You know the ones that are usually accompanied by pictures of body parts you’d rather not see on strangers unless you’d specifically asked to, right?
Of course, for writers, everything is grist to the writing mill and when I thought about it….sometimes we can be a little like that – so determined to ‘do it right’ that we lack the flexibility to see and explore the worth of new ideas and opportunities. So often I’ve heard people talk about ‘the formula’ for writing a novel, a biography, a text book, a romance, a best seller… if there is some secret recipe that will guarantee writing success. There is a sort of one, actually – but not the one that these people are looking for.
In fact, it seems to me that there are several secrets to being successful as a writer and getting published.
 1) Believe in yourself and don’t give up. Writing can be disheartening at times – you sacrifice time you could be doing other things in order to write. And it’s hard, and sometimes it seems there are only rejections and you think maybe it will never get better.
2) Write the book of your heart, let your passion for the story shine through. Forget the idea of a ‘formula’ and write the book you’d want to read, the book that tells a story that you need to tell.
3) Realize that a good writer is in a constant state of ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’ – writers should always be honing their craft, learning and growing, so they are constantly becoming a better writer rather than merely being a good writer
4) Be prepared to put yourself out there. I think there are probably many wonderful books that their creators have consigned to a box under the bed for fear of rejection, or fear or what other people might say or think. You have to believe in yourself and in the story you want to tell.
What someone else thinks – be it a relative, a friend, your boss, an agent, publisher, editor – or even your creative writing teacher – counts only so far as you can see a way to use their comments to make the book better in your own eyes.
5) Do the work.This is the biggy. No-one ever became a successful writer by talking about the book they’re ‘gonna write someday’. Get the words on paper, learn to edit and polish, send your work out and learn from the critiques you receive from editors and agents. Then, when you’re published, be prepared to promote, promote, promote….no matter how difficult you find this, or how shy you might be.
Like I’ll be doing when I’m standing all alone in Chapters, hoping that some compassionate souls will stop and chat about my book, about writing, about the weather – anything so that I won’t feel like a fool standing there with my pile of novels waiting to be bought and signed, and a silly grin on my face.
Maybe you can add some thoughts of your own to what makes a successful book?

Glenys O’Connell’s next novel, a romantic comedy entitled Marrying Money, will be released as an ebook by Red Rose Publishing ( on April 8th!


The Demise of the Dramatis Personae?

Until recently, my genre of choice for pleasure reading was fantasy.

The typical fantasy series has such a wide range of characters and settings that it often includes a dramatis personae, a listing of characters and their relationships. They often also list common places in the fantasy world to help readers keep it all straight. An example is the Sun Sword series by Michelle West. Spanning years and introducing an extremely complex world with castes and allegiances that sometimes changed from book to book, it included a comprehensive glossary of people and places that I used frequently during the six years that I read the series.

Earlier this month, a friend and I were discussing Rachel Vincent’s most recent installment in her Shifters series, Shift. I had finished the book, but my friend was struggling to reacquaint herself with the cast of characters. Vincent did a good job of providing small details to jog the reader’s memory when mentioning a character, but it wasn’t enough for my friend.

I know that Vincent must have a character rundown that helps her keep her characters straight, especially now that she has begun a new series, her YA Soul Screamers series.

Would you find a dramatis personae useful when you are reading the typical urban fantasy or genre-bending romance novel? If you are primarily an ebook reader, would the format affect your ability to use such a tool?


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